Girardi | Keese

Fatal train accident leads to California wrongful death lawsuit

Train accidents can often have unfortunate if not tragic results, especially in situations where pedestrians are either directly struck or hit by flying debris. The trial of a recent wrongful death lawsuit began in a California courtroom, filed by the families of two young women who were killed in a train accident in 2007. While the Union Pacific railroad claims that the women's actions led to their deaths, the plaintiff's lawsuit contends that the train's engineer should have been able to stop in time to spare the women's lives if he had been following the rules surrounding railroad operations.

Specifically, the plaintiffs maintain that the Union Pacific crew failed to act in an alert and attentive manner as required by regulations to avoid hitting the women's stalled SUV. The women had attended a party not too far away from the tracks where the vehicle malfunctioned. Later, toxicology results revealed that the driver of the SUV was intoxicated. Both women were reportedly outside of the vehicle at the time of the train's approach.

Reports indicate that the engineer did spot the vehicle and blew his horn, along with applying the train's emergency brakes. However, the train still slammed into the SUV. The train did not hit the women, but sent the SUV flying end-over-end. Ultimately, the SUV smashed into the women and killed them.

It remains to be seen how this California wrongful death lawsuit will play out in court, but what is clear is that the families of these two women are now left to mourn their untimely deaths. After some train accidents, it may become appropriate for surviving family members to file civil actions in order to seek restitution for the final costs and other monetary damages that are typically incurred by unexpected deaths. This may not bring back a life that has been lost, but a successful suit can help with the financial strain that such a loss may have caused.

Source: Temecula, CA Patch, "Grisly Local Train Wreck Tests Limits Of Liability," March 4, 2013

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